Diana Civil is an interior stylist, art director, set designer and producer based in London. An amazingly versatile designer (you’ll have seen her set work in all sorts of ads and magazine splashes), Di also creates beautiful rooms for living in, and has in her garden the most stylish ‘shed’ you’ll ever find.
Here’s our Q&A with Di about her bohemian background, her love of flea market finds, her top lighting tips and a lot more besides...
Tell us about your background in art direction and set design...How did you get started in interior styling?
I fell into interior styling by chance. I come from a very bohemian family: growing up I was surrounded by music and art, and even as a small child I loved being creative and making things. I studied fashion and textile design at Art College and loved the diversity of the foundation course, but I didn’t feel at home with the fashion world and I left midway through the degree course. By chance I immediately landed a job as a secretarial temp on an interiors magazine, working for Susy Smith (ex editorial director of Country Living). I immediately loved it and knew interiors was my thing! I was given the opportunity to go along to shoots as the stylist and things went from there. Over the years I worked on various magazines as Homes Editor and Interiors Editor. It was a fabulous way of learning different skills, and that’s where I learnt how to design and put together sets, as well as gaining an insider knowledge of the interiors industry: contacts, logistics, budgets and all the attributes needed to be a producer and art director.
Di's set featuring the Melvillous chandelier and Stucco table lamp. Photo: Max Attenborough
How would you describe your interiors style?
My interiors style is an absolute mix of everything and anything that inspires me – which is probably far too eclectic for these days, when you are supposed to have a fine-tuned USP that doesn’t vary! I am in awe of beautifully sleek pared back minimalist design like John Pawson, mesmerised by riots of colour and craft like India Mahdavi, and then I also love the humour of OTT glitz and kitsch like Jonathan Adler. I suppose at home my style is a mix of design classics and weird and wonderful junk shop and flea market buys that I have collected over the years.
What inspires you when it comes to interiors?
Inspiration comes from so many sources, but generally it’s when I’m out and about and see something that gives me a flash. It can be simply seeing a splash of colour or an eye catching combination, a place, a shape, or interesting texture or typography. Anything, really. I tend to take tonnes of photos of things that interest me, as well as collecting tangibles like swatches. You never know when they will be useful for a future project.
Images: Diana Civil
What do you most enjoy about your work?
Working with colour, texture and interesting furniture and objects is such a joy, and so rewarding on a daily basis. I love putting all these elements together and seeing the whole process come to life, turning ideas into a creative end result. I think also working as part of a team on a shoot is extremely rewarding: a great team means the job is effortless and enjoyable.
How does lighting play a part in your interiors?
I love incorporating lighting into an interior by adding a layered approach, with different light sources at different levels to create interest and ambience around a room I also like lighting that makes a focal statement with either unexpected colour, scale or shape - for example a oversized pendant or floor lamp that really pack a punch in a space.
Any top lighting tips you’d like to share?
My top tip would be to take the time to find the right bulb and colour temperatures for your room. This is often overlooked and the colour temperature ends up being too warm or too cool for the interior. Dimmer switches are also great for incorporating into an interior as you can completely alter the mood and ambience of a room in an instant.
Images: Diana Civil
Do you have a particular favourite space in your own home - a sitting room, bathroom, den or just a corner - that you’ve designed just for you and which you feel is all your own? What makes it special for you?
My current favourite space is my ‘Shed’ at the end of my garden which is used as a work and shootspace as well as a chill out room. It was fab to be able to design it from scratch and get it to work with feel of the garden and the sunlight. Pretty much everything from the project was reclaimed, flea market finds or upcycled. From the Crittall windows (a bargain eBay purchase) which were stripped, repainted and reglazed, to the sanded and oiled scaffold board flooring and the upcycled kitchen units. It’s been a really exciting and self indulgent project to find all the treasures that make up the look and feel! What makes it really special is its ambience: it has wonderful sunlight that streams in and it just has that feelgood factor that you want to achieve in any space.
Diana's 'Shed'. Images: Diana Civil
Which recent projects are you particularly proud of?
Apart from my Shed and a range of TV commercials where I've had to find experts to make some extremely weird and wonderful props, one rewarding job that I recently worked on involved transforming a really dull commercial building into an innovative, immersive space for a social enterprise project for Red Bull. The attendees were specially picked to be mentored by some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs. They all run their own ingenious businesses and they were such inspiring and hard working people, ready to conquer the world!
Finally, do you have a favourite Pooky light (and if so, why that one?)
I’m a massive fan of the new natural cane pendants - the Merlin and Albus - and as a fan of Lord of the Rings definitely agree with Pooky that the Merlin has strong Gandalf vibes going on, with its pointy hat shape. It would make a great talking point over the dinner table!